A shotgun wedding is a wedding that is arranged to avoid embarrassment due to premarital sex possibly leading to an unintended pregnancy, rather than out of the desire of the participants. The phrase is an American colloquialism, though it is also used in other parts of the world, based on a supposed scenario that the father of the bride-to-be must resort to using coercion (such as threatening with a shotgun) to ensure that the man who possibly impregnated her follows through with the wedding.
The concept of a wedding held to avoid the threat of death dates back millennia; the book of Deuteronomy lays out a law governing premarital sex where, if a man rapes a virgin who is not pledged to be married and is caught doing so, the man must pay the bride price (50 shekels), take her as his wife, and may never divorce her, or else risk being stoned to death.
The use of duress or violent coercion to marry is no longer common in the U.S., although many anecdotal stories and folk songs record instances of such coercion in 18th- and 19th-century America. Often a couple will arrange a shotgun wedding without explicit outside encouragement, and some religious teachings consider it a moral imperative to marry in that situation.
One purpose of such a wedding can be to get recourse from the man for the act of impregnation; another reason is to ensure that the child is raised by both parents. In some cases, as in early America and in the Middle East, a major objective was the restoring of social honor to the mother. The practice is also a loophole method of preventing the birth of legally illegitimate children, or if the marriage occurs early enough, to conceal that conception occurred prior to marriage. In some societies the stigma attached to pregnancy out of wedlock can be enormous, and coercive means (in spite of the legal defense of undue influence) for gaining recourse are often seen as the prospective father-in-law's "right", and an important, albeit unconventional, coming of age event for the young father-to-be.
The phenomenon has become less common (in the Western World at least) as the stigma associated with out-of-wedlock births has declined and the number of such births has increased. Effective birth control and legalized abortion have also resulted in fewer unplanned pregnancies carried to term. Nonetheless a marriage which occurs when the bride is pregnant, even when there is no family or social pressure involved, is still sometimes referred to as a "shotgun wedding".
In East Asia
- In Japan, the slang term Dekichatta kekkon (出来ちゃった結婚?), or Dekikon (デキコン?) for short, emerged in the late 1990s. The term can literally be translated as "oops-we-did-it-marriage," implying an unintended pregnancy. Notable celebrities with these marriages include Namie Amuro, Yōko Oginome, Hitomi Furuya, Ami Suzuki, Kaori Iida, Nozomi Tsuji, Anna Tsuchiya, Meisa Kuroki, Leah Dizon, and Melody Miyuki Ishikawa. A quarter of all Japanese brides are pregnant at the time of their wedding, according to the Health Labor and Welfare Ministry, and pregnancy is one of the most common motivations for marriage. Unplanned pregnancies are common due to low usage of oral contraceptives by women. The prevalence and celebrity profile of dekichatta-kon has inspired Japan's wedding industry to introduce an even more benign phrase, sazukari-kon (授かり婚?, blessed wedding).
- In China, the term 奉子成婚 (pinyin: Fèngzǐchénghūn; literally: "married by the order of child") means that the couple married because conception occurred outside of marriage. It is a pun on the phrase 奉旨成婚, pronounced Fengzhichenghun and implying that a wedding is approved by imperial edict. It is becoming increasingly common among China's youngest generation. However, in the same age group, there is objection and criticism to such a practice.
- In Korea, the slang term 속도위반 "Sokdowebaan" (literally meaning "speeding over the limit") refers to the situation in which the pregnancy preceded the marriage.
- In Vietnam, the term "Bác sĩ bảo cưới" (literally meaning "because [the] doctor said so") is often used with humorous intention.
- Forced marriage
- Knobstick wedding
- Premarital sex
- Oklahoma!, a play where one character, Ali Hakim, is forcibly coerced towards marriage on two separate occasions.
- Marriage of convenience
- Deuteronomy 22:28-29
- Haruna Kashiwase, "Shotgun Weddings a Sign of the Times in Japan," Population Today, July 2002, prb.org
- "Japan embraces shotgun weddings". Telegraph. June 22, 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
- Brasor, Philip (8 January 2012). "Oops! Pregnant celebs dancing down the aisle". The Japan Times. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, The Fourteenth Japanese National Fertility Survey in 2010 (October 2011). "Marriage Process and Fertility of Japanese Married Couples" (PDF). Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- Cosgrove-Mather, Bootie (20 August 2004). "Japanese Women Shun the Pill". CBS News. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- Ryall, Julian (22 June 2009). "Japan embraces shotgun weddings". The Telegraph. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
- 奉子成婚成常現象 "大肚新娘"挑戰傳統貞操 Married by the child became a norm, "Pregnant brides" are challenging the traditional chastity.
- “奉子成婚”挑战传统道德底线 "Married by the Child" challenging traditional marital limits.